Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and can take sight without warning.
Often called the “sneak thief of sight” because it can strike without pain or other symptoms, glaucoma can’t be prevented. It is treatable, however, and early detection is critical. That’s why the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association (OOPA) recommends regular, comprehensive eye exams to maintain healthy vision and protect the eyes from this potentially blinding disease. The detection of glaucoma, which involves much more than the “air puff test,” is greatly aided by dilation and careful examination of the eye interior.
Awareness and understanding surrounding glaucoma is relatively low. According to data from the American Optometric Association’s latest American Eye-Q® consumer survey, less than 20 percent of all Americans know that glaucoma primarily causes deterioration to peripheral vision. If left untreated, substantial damage to the eye or eyes will result.
Americans are also unaware of the factors that put them most at risk for developing glaucoma. Only 16 percent of those surveyed indicated knowing that race or ethnicity may increase their risk. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans ages 45 to 65 are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians. Other risk factors include people who have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 60, or have had severe eye trauma.
If glaucoma therapy becomes necessary, several forms of treatment are potentially available. Usually, prescription eyedrops are used. Other times, certain forms of glaucoma might be treated by surgery. Many times, we hear of medical marijuana being used for glaucoma treatment. Marijuana can lower the pressure inside the eye. However, it is not as effective and does not last nearly as long as conventional treatments. The side effects of marijuana, including its harmful effects on the lungs and brain, drowsiness, and reduced judgment and concentration, make it a poor choice for treatment of glaucoma.
The American Optometric Association has an excellent article on glaucoma at http://aoa.org/Glaucoma.xml.
To monitor eye health and maintain good vision, schedule regular comprehensive eye exams with your eye doctor. To find an optometrist near you, please visit the OOPA website at www.oregonoptometry.org.
Dr. Kirsten Scott, OD, a member of the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association. She practices in Bend and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-382-5701.